Israeli diplomat expelled over fake passports
Relations between Ireland and Israel reached an all-time low yesterday after the Government ordered the expulsion of an official from the Israeli Embassy over the forgery of eight Irish passports.
Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin refused to name the embassy worker or their rank, but it is expected that a security official will be removed.
He stressed that the official had not been accused or suspected of any wrongdoing, rather that they were a "victim of the actions of the state they represent".
However, the knock-on effect of the passports scandal, and the expulsion, means relations between Ireland and Israel are now at a new low.
"The Irish Government wants a relationship with Israel which is characterised by mutual trust and respect," Mr Martin said.
"However, our investigations into the misuse of Irish passports have reached conclusions about the conduct of the Israeli authorities which are profoundly disturbing and which are seriously detrimental to the kind of relationship we would like to have with Israel."
The decision to expel the diplomat was made at yesterday's Cabinet meeting and the demand was then presented to the Israeli ambassador, Dr Zion Evrony.
It is the first time a diplomat has been expelled from Ireland since the 1970s when several Soviet-era officials were ordered to leave the country.
A total of eight Irish passports were used by a Mossad unit which carried out the assasination of Hamas leader Mahmoud al Mabhouh in a Dubai hotel last January.
The numbers and expiry dates on the documents were genuine -- however, the names had been changed.
A number of forged British and Australian passports were also used by the assassins and inquiries in those countries found that Israeli intelligence services were responsible.
Mr Martin said he was led to the "inescapable conclusion" that an Israeli government agency was also responsible for the misuse of the Irish passports and had most likely manufactured them.
The minister described the expulsion as a "protest action".
Mr Martin said he hoped both countries could "move past this incident" and that such "unfriendly actions", which were damaging to overall relations, would not be repeated.
The Israeli embassy said it regretted the Government's decision. "We believe that it does not reflect the overall positive relations which exist between Ireland and Israel," it said.
Dr Evrony came under renewed pressure last night to appear before the Dail's Foreign Affairs Committee to discuss the passports scandal.
Dr Evrony has already refused an invitation to appear before the committee, saying he had no information on the subject
"We feel that it is not good enough for the ambassador to simply say that he has no information in this affair," Dr Michael Woods, chairman of the committee, said.
"We believe that he is obliged to find out what role his government played in this matter and answer questions from democratically elected public representatives."
The Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign welcomed the government's move but called for further action and the expulsion of Dr Evrony.
However, Mr Martin stressed the importance of maintaining diplomatic channels and rejected suggestions that the Irish Embassy in Tel Aviv be closed and the ambassador called home.